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Alberta greenhouse report identifies challenges, opportunities


September 29, 2020
By Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (edited)

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Alberta’s Profile of the Greenhouse Industry 2019 report has identified serious concerns – and potential opportunities – for the industry in the months to come.

“The report shows that the majority of growers are anticipating business threats such as higher energy costs, markets and prices, labour shortages, import competition, taxes and regulation and currency fluctuations in the next three-to-five years,” says Emmanuel Anum Laate, senior crop economist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “Growers indicated that in the next three-to-five years, non-traditional products, the buy local movement, export markets, organic or green products would serve as opportunities for expansion.”

The report is crucial to making a sound business plan for growers.

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‘This report is of significance to greenhouse growers, researchers and agricultural financial institutions that rely on this information for business decisions,” says Laate.

The Economics Section of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry in partnership with the Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association gathered the data for this report through a comprehensive survey during the winter of 2019-20. This updates the 2014 profile report with 2019 data.

The report includes size, distribution in different regions within the province, heating systems, water and energy use trends, and labour. It also looks at opportunities and issues related to financing, the environment, business climate and regulation, competitiveness with imports, and other benchmarks and future trends.

“Presently, there are 195 greenhouse operations in Alberta,” notes Laate. “The present size of Alberta’s greenhouse crops industry is estimated to be 404 acres, 164 hectares, 17.62 million square feet or 1.64 million square metres. Vegetable accounted for about 46% of the total greenhouse area, or 187 acres, followed by floriculture at 42%, or 170 acres, and tree seedlings at 12%, or 48 acres. Greenhouse institutional facilities of approximately 3.56 acres are not included in the total area.”

The greenhouse area in the province is divided into 10 regions, ranging from Region 1 which includes Fort McMurray, to Lethbridge included in Region 10.

“Compared to the 2014 survey results, the Medicine Hat region – Region 9 which includes Redcliff – continues to account for the largest percentage, 41%, of the total greenhouse area,’” he says. “The area under 10,000 sq. ft. has decreased from 30% in 2014 to 22% in 2019. The proportion of greenhouses with an area over 40,000 sq. ft. has increased from 32% in 2014 to 35% 2019. Double poly greenhouses accounted for about 72% of total area followed by glass at 23%.”

Approximately 40% of greenhouses are year-round and 60% are seasonal in nature. The industry employed 41%, or 1,277 employees, as full-time workers and the remaining 59%, or 1,851 employees, as part-time workers. Natural gas continued to be the fuel of choice for heating greenhouses. No major shift has occurred in the use of alternate fuel like coal, wood or others.

Read Profile of the Greenhouse Industry in Alberta 2019 to learn more.